Grade inflation issue: A new framework proposal

Grade inflation in UK universities raised concerns from the public and several government officials. First-class degrees should not be given out easily; it will diminish the perception of quality education in UK universities.

A new framework to counter grade inflation in universities

In a new framework proposed by the UK university leaders, students must consistently display exceptional logical and analytical skills to qualify for the first-class degree awards. The proposed framework is part of a voluntary effort from universities to address the public’s concern on grade inflation without a detailed basis.

Included in the framework agreement is that universities should provide detailed progress in a student’s portfolio to be considered in any honor award with rating 2.2 to 1.

Degree awards are defined as follows:

  • First-class degrees (1) require a student performance at an “exceptional” level and with “advanced” knowledge skills.
  • Grade of (2.1) will be merited to students having skills and knowledge considered to be in a “thorough” level.
  • Grade of (2.2) is considered to be for students with a “strong” level of learning.
  • Third class degrees are considered “normal” and nothing exceptional to have an adjective to define it.

This effort to maintain credibility among university grading system is supported by major universities in the UK. It will protect graduates from being misjudged by their future employers based on their academic achievement. This will also help employers stay confident that they are hiring the right candidate for their companies.

Universities are listening to concerns regarding grade inflation. The new framework is our way of showing initiative in ensuring the public that transparency and consistency in university grading systems are well in check.

-Prof Julia Buckingham, Universities UK President

University grade inflation from recent years

The concern of grade inflation was initiated by the Office for Students (OfS), a higher education regulatory board in England. OfS observed a drastic increase in first-class degrees from the recent graduating classes. In 2010-11, the percentage was at 16%, but during the 2017-18 academic year, it climbed a steep 29%. 

Even government officials came to support the issues about grade inflation. Education secretary Gavin Williamson a loud critic of grade inflation firmly believes that universities should be held liable for handing out first-class degrees easily.

I am clear that universities must end grade inflation and I will be watching closely to see if these initiatives do help to tackle the issue. I expect the Office for Students to challenge institutions that continue to record unexplained rises in top degrees awarded.

-Gavin Williamson